Three young Islanders forge new ground

It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it. Ben Davis, 8 years old and a second-grader at Lakeridge Elementary, was chosen from over 20 applicants in his age group to serve as one of seven jurors to select the best film from the eight movies that will be screened in the Films4Families segment of the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) from May 19 through June 12.

Off to the movies

It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it. Ben Davis, 8 years old and a second-grader at Lakeridge Elementary, was chosen from over 20 applicants in his age group to serve as one of seven jurors to select the best film from the eight movies that will be screened in the Films4Families segment of the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) from May 19 through June 12.

Davis had to tell the folks at SIFF what his five favorite films are, and write an essay explaining why he should be chosen.

“In Ben’s case, we liked the way each film was different from the rest,” said educational programs manager with SIFF, Dustin Kaspar. “It was not just a list of films that have come out in the past couple months, but showed instead that he has seen and enjoyed a wide variety of films that are both new and old.”

In addition to movies, sports (his favorite thing in the world) and TV, he likes to read. He read “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” before he saw the movie at a previous SIFF viewing that was a smell-a-thon — meaning the smells of chocolate and candy filled the auditorium.

“I liked the movie a lot — I like candy,” he said.

In addition to “Willy Wonka,” he lists “E.T.” and “The Sound of Music” among his favorite films. He said “E.T.” scared him at first, but he liked that E.T. finally got home. With the “Sound of Music,” he likes the kids and the songs.

Kaspar said Davis also submitted a collage of drawings and clippings that demonstrated the aspects of cinema that the youngster enjoys.

“That sort of insight demonstrates that he has experienced the power of film to move and change us, which is an important understanding when you are on a film jury,” Kaspar said.

Davis’s grandmother, Shirley Katz of Fremont and a SIFF member, suggested that he apply to be a SIFF judge. His uncle, Len Davis, is a documentary filmmaker, which also may have inspired the youth. Len Davis has been nominated three times for an Emmy Award, for “Sustainable Fishing Story,” “Refugees in Seattle” and “Little Lama.”

Davis said his uncle made a film about digital dumping in Third World countries that he learned from.

“We’ve talked about the content of the film and what documentaries teach people,” said his mom, Lara Davis.

But Davis has no desire to be a filmmaker. No, he wants to be an athlete. Nonetheless, he is excited about being a juror at SIFF.

“It’s going to be awesome,” he said.

Aspiring architect

Bella Carriker, 13, a student at the French American School of Puget Sound on Mercer Island, has wanted to be an architect since she was in the third grade when she took an architecture class in Vancouver, British Columbia. With an interest in math, science and art, it seemed a natural for her.

Carriker finds it disturbing that her godmother, Leta Rose, can’t get around in her own home. Rose is a double amputee, with two prosthetic legs.

“My first amputation was in 2000,” Rose said. “I was bit by a brown recluse (spider) and then developed MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus — a bacterial infection).”

Rose said she fought MSRA for eight years, until losing the other leg in 2008. She used to teach at Seattle Central Community College and has worked at Harborview Medical Center, but since the first amputation she has been on disability. Carriker and her mother, Laura, said Leta was quite the adventurer before all of this happened.

Rose said she can’t live normally where she lives now. The bathroom is not usable, and the kitchen isn’t functional for her.

“Leta got around OK on one leg, but it was a huge shift for her in 2008 when she had the second leg amputated,” Bella Carriker said.

Carriker decided to do something about Rose’s living situation. Two years ago she was researching architectural workshops and discovered a series called “Solving Social Issues Through Design,” offered by the Seattle Architecture Foundation. She participated in two of the workshops — one on homelessness and another on disaster. Then she thought, why not have a workshop on designing for the disabled?

She approached the foundation with her idea, and they agreed as long as she organized it. The workshop was held on April 8, with Rose, an actual client, in attendance.

Carriker said about 15 teens attended. She interviewed Rose about what an ideal living space would look like for her. For the bathroom, a roll-in shower is a must. Counters must allow her to slip her wheelchair underneath. Pathways in the garden would allow her to navigate her wheelchair outside.

Architect Karen Bratmayer, a lifelong wheelchair user, was at the workshop, Carriker said. Bratmayer, who has made accessibility consulting and design services her focus since 1990, explained to the youths some of the elements already used in homes for the disabled.

From there, they took some of Rose’s ideas and created a model. It’s important to Carriker that the design has some interest and not look like a box.

The next step in the process will be the creation of a nonprofit to be called Architecture, Design and Engineering (ADE) to be formed by Carriker and a few other like-minded teens. They will continue to learn about designing for the disabled.

“I think it’s really important to help people with design,” Carriker said. “It probably never crosses people’s minds; there’s a lot of Letas out there.”

The fledgling nonprofit will face some challenges. First, they need a mentor architect. Second, funding, or perhaps a donation of a piece of land for Rose’s house. If you’d like to help, e-mail

Scientific swimmer

Elianna Nomicos, a third-grader at West Mercer Elementary, won first place in the junior division at the 54th annual Washington State Science and Engineering Fair (WSSEF), which concluded on April 2 at Bremerton High School in Bremerton, Wash. The junior division includes students in first through eighth grade. Each grade has several first-place awards, with Nomicos receiving one of the first-place awards for third grade. Nomicos first showcased her event at the West Mercer science fair.

Elianna said she has been swimming since she was 2 or 3. She now swims for the King Aquatic Club at the Newport Hills swimming club.

“She came up with this idea on her own — she wanted to do something that was applicable to her,” said Gene Nomicos, Elianna’s father.

Nomicos did her own research:

“For my research, I compared the shape of different swimming fins to different kinds of fish tail fins, and compared the shape of the fin to the speed of the different fish. The square fin looks like a truncate tail fin, and the cross-blade fin looks like a forked tail fin of a fish. Fish with truncate tail fins tend to swim slower than fish with forked tail fins. That’s why I believed that the cross-blade fins would go faster than the square fins.”

In her conclusion, Nomicos said, “As I stated in my hypothesis, I believed that I would swim faster and kick faster with the cross-blade fins. My experimental data did not support my hypothesis. I swam about the same speed, and I kicked faster with the cross-blade fins.”

Students from 34 schools were among the 463 students competing. King County students won 46 of the 144 first-place awards given, the senior division grand prize silver medal and 31 special awards.

“I really enjoyed getting it,” Nomicos said of her award. “I was really proud of my project.”